What would you do if you saw a distressed child in a park? Would you step forward to check he was OK?
A Sydney mother is devastated after her six-year-old son was almost abducted in Centennial Park and no-one helped him, despite almost 200 people being nearby at the time.
The boy was riding his bike in the park with his family when he cycled ahead and they lost sight of him. The parents frantically began searching for their son and called park rangers to assist. The boy was found by his father a short time later walking his bike and crying hysterically.
His mother has since shared her terrifying story to friends in an email (names have been changed to protect the family's privacy) that reads:
Just wanted to let you all know about a very scary experience we had
I will probably be very dramatic but feel it is necessary as the situation
could have turned out very badly. No-one wants to think it can happen to
us, but clearly it very nearly did.
Whilst we live in a nice little safe community, we need to be vigilant and
teach our children to be so. We also need to learn about the importance of
not becoming complacent when we believe a situation looks wrong!!
Today, we decided to go for a nice walk in Centennial Park around 4pm.
Max(6) had his bike and Emily (3) had her scooter. Derek and myself were
walking. Max decided that he needed to go a little faster than us and went
onto the jogging path. We both said at many stages that we were concerned
we couldn’t see him anymore, but believed he was just being silly in his
6-year old sense that he went riding off without us.
As I’m sure many of you know Centennial Park has many roads and lanes. As
we stopped at each, and couldn’t see Max anywhere, we were unsure of
whether he would cross a road or follow the path. At this point we were
concerned but also cursing him for being so silly for riding on so far
We were hoping not to make too much of it, but were concerned so Derek cut
into one of the paths on the inside of the park, whilst I continued on the
periphery. At this point still we were hoping not to think the worst but
that he had not got lost and was hysterical somewhere…
We ended up walking the entire park, trying not to panic. We met back at
the car, hopeful that Max may have had sense and stopped there. No such
At this stage we called Centennial Park Rangers. They sent patrols out but
said to immediately call the police. Nothing like that suggestion to
quicken the heart of a worried parent.
I decided to walk through the park again while Derek drove. All this time I
was looking for Max, his bike, anything…..Not at any stage could I admit
to myself what could be the worst possibility….
After walking for about 7 minutes (what seemed like an hour) Derek called to
say he had found Max!! Thank God!! “Is he ok??”….
Well everyone… as it turns out he is ok and that is the most important
thing. What is the scariest thing about this is that when Derek found him he
was walking with his bike, hysterically crying, with a 25ish, overweight,
dungeons and dragons looking kind of guy next to him.. Derek shouted Max’s
name at which point the guy ran under the fence at the park. When Derek
called the police back to say we had found him they said they already had
at least 6 patrols in the park, and the fact that it looked like an
attempted abduction made them very concerned. At one point there was 15
patrols in the park and a police helicopter looking for this pervert.
I say pervert because he clearly was not just having a chat with Max, and
this is my concern to all parents out there.
Max said that when he went riding his bike at first some guy ran next to
him and said “Do you want a race?’ Of course Max said yes! This is the
stage where we said “look silly boy has gone off….
The police now believe that this jogger may have been a part of the attempt
to get Max away from his parents’ view…
The jogger stopped the race and said he needed to get into his car, at
which stage Max didn’t know where we were, or where he was for that
He continued riding, hoping to catch up with us.
Apparently he just kept riding until ‘his bottom got sore’ so he got off
his bike and started walking.
At this stage a man approached him and started chatting:
“Are you lost?
“I can help you”
“I know your Mummy and Daddy and they said I should take you to them”
“I know their names…”
“If you come with me to my car I have some lollies and we’ll go see your
Mummy and Daddy”
”What school do you go to”………………..
Everyone please I urge you, please, take this to heart.
Apparently he told Max he knew his parents’ names and Max said “Can you
guess them?. Clearly not. He also tried to hold his hand which is very
scary. The scariest thing of all is that it was a public holiday, and there
were a million people around.
THE PONT IS THERE WAS A HYSTERICAL 6-YEAR OLD AND NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON
Derek did say when he finally found him that a few people were kind of
looking like it wasn’t right – BUT NO-ONE SPOKE UP”. No-one at any stage
said to Max “ are you ok? Is this your Daddy?”
The police took this very seriously. They had 15 patrol cars in Centennial
Park and a helicopter flying over the park to try and find the guy. Again,
I told you this would be dramatic, but another minute or so and he may have
been somewhere we could not imagine in our worst nightmare.
So, our message to everyone is to teach your kids . Not only say “Stranger
Danger”, but also to ask for help. Clearly Max was concerned a while
beforehand, but while he knew he shouldn’t talk to strangers or go off with
any one, he couldn’t ask all those people around for help. He knows my
phone number off by heart and he knows what he should do but he couldn’t
because he wasn’t old enough or he lacked confidence or he thought he might
be in trouble if he talked to a stranger.
Thankfully, not just what we have taught him but what the school has taught
him made him aware enough to know it is not right.
Most of all, we ask that if you ever see a child who looks uncomfortable,
or ill at ease, ASK THEM IF THIS IS YOUR MUMMY OR DADDY. Honestly there
were probably 200 hundred people in the park today who possibly saw Max
and did nothing.
Clearly this other man was not his father, and while Derek said he did feel
that there were some people around looking concerned, imagine if it was
your child. I think we have to stop being concerned about ‘interfering’ and
start being concerned about who could possibly interfere with our children.
When the police realised there was possibly a missing child, and
potentially a paedophile around, there were 15 patrol cars in the park and
a police helicopter scouring the area for this a##hole. I would like to say
that the police, when called, responded with an amazing pace- honestly
they were there in about 4 minutes) and came from Bondi. Maroubra, and all
of the Eastern Suburbs once as child was involved.
They take it seriously and we need to as well. The police, to their credit,
did an amazing job and are following up with a paediatric detective.
Considering the very close call we had today, and realising that we
possibly had a minute or two before a potential tragedy, makes us realise
that we are all too complacent in coming forward.
So please everyone, we are all too concerned about looking like idiots, but
who cares – for our children’s sakes.
I have forwarded this onto anyone I have email addresses for but please
forward onto any parents you know…
I told you I would be dramatic!! Let’s get some action.
Police have made a statement saying: "As he was reunited with his parents, a man described as Caucasian in appearance, aged 20-25 with pasty white skin and curly thick brown hair with a heavy set overweight frame, was seen to be running away from the vicinity."
The Sex Crimes Squad are also urging all parents to be vigilant as school holidays approach, as stranger danger incidents traditionally increase during these periods.